Smelly Notebooks

Is smell ever a factor in your notebook usage? I’ve tested a few notebooks over the years that had distinctive odors, sometimes pleasant, sometimes not. When I reviewed the Rendr Sketchbook, one of the first things I noticed about it was a strong chemical smell, although it faded after unwrapping. One Moleskine I bought on eBay had a wonderful smell, as though it had been stored in a drawer with cedar or some sort of scented candles or potpourri (I’m not necessarily fond of scented candles or potpourri, but it was a nice woodsy, herbal smell, not super perfume-y).

Usually Moleskines just have a sort of inky smell, not at all unpleasant, but the one I just started using, another eBay purchase of older stock, has a gross odor, kind of barfy-smelling. It’s the first time I’ve ever experienced this, and I’ve used dozens of Moleskines over 15+ years. It’s still noticeable several days after unwrapping the notebook and using it, so I tried swabbing some eucalyptus oil on the inside front and back covers– that helped somewhat, but the yucky smell is still there. I also pulled a couple of leaves off my patchouli plant and stuck them in the back pocket, that that’s not solving the problem either. It reminds me of an old TV commercial from the 1980s, for some sort of room deodorizer spray. The ad criticized the competition for merely adding perfume rather than neutralizing odors: a little girl whines “Ewww, now it smells like fish and roses!” Well, now my notebook smells like eucalyptus and patchouli and vomit.

I keep riffling through the pages in hopes that it will air out and today, I put it in a bag with some candles to see if the smell will improve but what if it doesn’t? Can I bear to get rid of it?? Or will I just be wrinkling my nose for the next few months while trying to finish this notebook as quickly as possible? Oh, the drama… what would you do??

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10 Responses to “Smelly Notebooks”

  1. Well, I would never add scent to a bad scent, because you get evil combinations like that. (And also because I am super allergic to cedar, patchouli, and an awful lot of fragrances.)

    In an inconspicuous place, I would test how rubbing alcohol reacts to the cover. If it doesn’t take off the printing or otherwise damage, I would swab off the cover with a generous amount of rubbing alcohol a few times, letting it evaporate/dry between.

    If that doesn’t help, I would try putting the notebook into a big ziplock with one of those flow-thru fridge boxes of Arm & Hammer baking soda for a week or so. (A little bowl of charcoal brickettes – as long as they are plain charcoal, without stuff on them to help them light more easily – would work, too.)

    (You’re trying to get rid of the smell molecules by neutralizing them or absorbing them into something else. Adding other things with fragrance just adds more, competing smell molecules.)

  2. Put it in a ziplock bag with a scented dryer sheet if you have any. This worked to remove the smoky smell from journals I saved after our house fire.

  3. If you put the journal in a box of baking soda and close the lid it will help. I just take a plastic box with a lid and add 2 big boxes of baking soda to the bottom. open the book and lay it down flat on top. leave over night. then turn a few pages, repeat. it took 90% of cigarette smoke out of one of mine. also sunlight helps too if you don’t mind the slight yellowing of the pages.

  4. Coffee also helps to neutralize odours.

  5. I never tried this, but I was in a meeting with some librarians and one of them said that kitty litter removes smells from books. If I remember correctly, she said the best thing to do was put the kitty litter in the bottom of a box, then make a little stage for the book so that it’s not directly in the litter, then close the box and wait a few days (or longer, if necessary). Good luck!

  6. I would try leaving it in the sunshine for a day. Let the UV light break down whatever is making the cover smell bad.

  7. I second the baking soda or kitty litter ideas, and if you can open the book and fan it out even better.

  8. If it’s the pages, I would put newsprint between each page.

  9. Thank you for all these great suggestions, everyone!

  10. I have worked in libraries a long time and I know exactly the smell you mean. What it is is the glue that has been used to bind the book. I'[ve usually smelled it in older children’s books. It is quite the distinctive odor! After spending so much time in libraries and with kids books, its almost a nostalgic scent to me now. Hard to believe I know!

    I’ve heard of success with the kitty litter idea, For other odors we have been known to spray lysol in the air and then wave the book through it. In this case though, I think what I would do is put it in a box, and lay some parchment paper or foil down and then put the dryer sheet on top of the paper/foil. Put the lid on it and set it in a warm spot.

    Hope you get the smell out!!

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